May Sarton

May Sarton

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Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing (the movie)

The Trailer In 1922 Hilary Stevens wrote a novel that shocked two continents.  She was instantly famous, but she stopped writing novels.  Now, it's 1964 and she has written a book of poetry that has captured the hearts of a new generation.

But even at 70 fame has its price. Everybody wants something.  There are stacks of letters, phone calls, a boy with a heart full of grief, and now interviewers.

And, try as she might, she can't avoid the questions she thought she'd buried years ago.

The Story.

Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing was first published in 1965. Though it was written when Sarton was 45, it seems to project or anticipate her own popularity in later years. It is the story of Hilary Stevens, a seventy-year-old lesbian poet. After writing a novel about love between women that shocked the 1920s, Hilary disappeared, writing only small volumes of poetry, until 1964-when a volume of her love sonnets strikes a chord with a new generation and, suddenly, Hilary is famous again. In the midst of this new fame, she is beset by people clamoring to find out who she is.

Two young critics come for an interview expecting a "transparent old woman." Instead, Hilary is a skillful opponent in a game of cat and mouse, answering personal questions with abstractions while becoming distracted by rich flashbacks of her Muse, the women who inspired her work. When memories make evasion impossible, Hilary tells the interviewers that the Muse is always female and always a lover. Initially shaken by Hilary's announcement, both young reporters come to respect her and themselves in ways they had never imagined.

Hilary also befriends a neighbor's college-aged grandson. Mar is in suicidal turmoil about his burgeoning homosexuality. Hilary helps him find the courage to live and be happy with himself.

The Author.

In the prologue to her biography of May Sarton, Margot Peters writes:

"May Sarton—poet, novelist, journal writer, feminist and lesbian—is speaking on campus, any campus, during the 1970s, anywhere in the United States. Electricity charges the air. For the first time since the feminist movements of the nineteenth century, women are listening to other women—not to men—talk about themselves. For her frankness and intimacy, Sarton has won more fans than perhaps any other contemporary American woman writer."

The Screenwriter/Director.
Linda Thornburg began writing and directing in 1972 with the award-winning short video Portrait of a Lost Soul. Thornburg was the first woman director at WBNS-TV, CBS Columbus. Her credits include the award-winning Oh Dear: A History of Woman Suffrage and Everybody's Neighborhood: The South Side Settlement House, as well as the lesbian play Leap of Faith (a Provincetown Applause Award winner and Cable Car Award nominee) and Good Girls Don't, a play about growing up lesbian and clueless in the Midwest of the 50s.

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